It makes for convenient political cover to tell the Legislature one thing in May and, when the taxpayers’ attention turns to you, to tell the public something different.
During the May 9, 2011, conference committee on HF 42, the tax bill, Executive Director of the Minnesota Inter-county Association, Keith Carlson, was complimentary of the Legislature’s implementation of the Market Value Exclusion program. Carlson told the committee:
“I do particularly want to reiterate the comments that some of the city testifiers have already made that we’re very pleased with the changes that are being made with the Market Value Credit changing that to an exclusion. The frustration that all local governments have suffered with the difference as to what appears on the statement versus what we are actually reimbursed is clearly addressed by this proposal and is a good outcome from our perspective.”
You can listen to his comments here:
The Legislature and Governor Dayton agreed to the Market Value Exclusion as a replacement for the Market Value Credit program in 2011. If the Market Value Credit had to be summed up in one word it would be this: Failure. It was too expensive for the state to fully fund (in fact, it only happened once during its entire existence) and it reduced accountability. Instead of delivering property tax relief directly to homeowners, the Market Value Credit inserted the state as a middle man to funnel relief to local governments in the hope it would then pass to homeowners.
Too expensive, low accountability, questionable results. No program that bad should be allowed to continue. The Legislature and the governor agreed, replacing it with the Exclusion program that delivers property tax relief directly to homeowners at no cost to the state and with a level of certainty for cities and counties. Counties, with Carlson as their spokesman, supported the change as indicated above.
But now that counties are setting their tax and spending levels and face public scrutiny, they’ve done an about face. Unable or unwilling to trim spending, counties need a scapegoat and Carlson is happy to oblige, blaming the very Exclusion program he and his organization were “very pleased with” only a few months prior.
From Saturday’s Star Tribune:
"Taxpayers are almost certainly going to be confused about who is responsible for this ... and where to focus their ire," said Keith Carlson, executive director of the Minnesota Inter-County Association, who helped draft a sample message.
That message, the story explains, is this:
“It’s not our fault.”
They say responsibility lies with legislators and the governor, who made a key change in the property tax system as part of a July deal to close the state’s $5 billion budget deficit.
The article continues:
And when taxpayers open [their statements], counties hope the fliers they have stuffed inside will make it clear that a state policy change – not the county, not the city and not the school district -- is responsible for higher taxes, Carlson said.
So there you have it. The Market Value Exclusion was a good idea in May, but when (most) counties proved unable to control their budgets, it’s a scapegoat to keep taxpayers from blaming local governments.